The enduring power of the Sultans

Sep 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Pop thinking

It was the wedding anniversary yesterday and sitting in the Gotham Café, where the walls are covered by front pages of Rolling Stone magazine from the 1970s and 1980s, it seemed appropriate that Dire Straits was being played.

Sultans of Swing captured the spirit of those transition times, but my copy of it was lost for nearly thirty years. Its process of rediscovery came three years ago when Sarah, one of my my sisters visited.

“You don’t know where my Dire Straits album is, do you?”

“What Dire Straits album?”

“Their first one. It came out in 1978, but I bought it the following year”.

“How should I know?”

It was a reasonable question, given that I had gone to live in Northern Ireland in 1983 and she had moved to her own home in the 1989.

“What album was it?”

“It was just called ‘Dire Straits’ – it had ‘Sultans of Swing’ on it. I loved that album”.

“Maybe it’s still at home somewhere. I don’t remember ever seeing it.”

Not discouraged by there being no recall of it, I had emailed my father and he had responded:

Mum has found three Dire Straits albums: Alchemy, Brothers in Arms, and one with no name, but it has Sultans of Swing, Down to the Waterline etc. Sarah says they are yours.

Yes! Brilliant!


The third one is mine – recorded 1978 – it was simply called Dire Straits.

The other two are Paula’s (though I’ll take them if she doesn’t want them!).

‘The other two must be Paula’s’, I had thought, “Who else could have bought them?”

Paula lives in Belfast, eight years younger and only 15 when I left for Ireland, I never knew what music she played.

A further email came;

Mum has an idea that one of them may be hers, Brothers in Arms.

Even it was released in 1985 – almost a quarter of a century had been rolled away.

A psychoanalyst could have had a field day.

“Now Mr Poulton, perhaps you would like to sit on the couch there and tell me about this desire to play thirty year old records”.

“Well Dr Fraud, there’s this piece of music that I played over and over again when I was eighteen, and no matter how many times I played it, I still liked it. Thirty odd years, later I can still play that piece of music repeatedly”.

“Very odd behaviour”.

“Indeed, but isn’t it good thing that we keep things thirty years in our family?”

“If you say so”.

“I do”.

The Sultans were played in the Gotham Café yesterday, prompting the usual shiver.

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s been raining in the park, but meantime . . . “

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  1. doh! i shall be ‘singing’ that all night now.

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